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Ohio Woman Raped by Guard Awarded $625,000

On September 15, 2005, a federal jury in Columbus, Ohio, awarded $625,000 to a woman who was fondled and digitally raped by a guard at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW).

In November 1996, while serving a 1-year sentence at ORW for stabbing her husband, plaintiff Michelle Ortiz was accosted by an unnamed male guard who grabbed her right breast. The next day Ortiz reported the incident to acting case manager Paula Jordan. Jordan instructed Ortiz to write a statement about the incident, but Ortiz refused. Jordan then instructed Ortiz to defend herself if it happened again and had her returned to her cell.

The next day Ortiz was again assaulted. She reported the incident to a security supervisor, who then assigned Rebecca Bright to investigate. Bright told Ortiz not to discuss the matter with other prisoners while the investigation was pending. She did anyway. Bright subsequently had Ortiz placed in segregation for two days.

Ortiz sued Jordan, Bright, and the assailant. She claimed the offending guard entered her cell while she was sleeping and ran his hand over her breast and crotch area. At trial she further claimed she was digitally raped. Ortiz contended Jordan violated her Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect her from the guard and that Bright violated her Fourteenth Amendment rights by placing her in segregation.

After deliberating for 5 hours, the jury awarded Ortiz a total of $625,000. The verdict included $250,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages against Jordan, and $25,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages against Bright.

Ortiz was represented by John J. Ricotta of Cleveland. See: Ortiz v. Voinovich, USDC D OH, Case No. 2:98-CV-01031.

Source: The Ohio Trial Reporter

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Related legal case

Ortiz v. Voinovich

No other information is available at this time. Note the verdict was reversed on appeal.